Water Aid Rwanda has launched campaign dubbed “Umudugudu Utagira Icyaha, Isuku Hose” (Village with no crime, Hygiene All Around) to improve the practice of hand washing.
The campaign was launched in Bugesera district, Eastern Province – October 12, 2021 to improve the practice of hand washing.
It comes ahead of the International Hand Washing Day which falls on October 15 of every year. Its aim is to set precedence for a continued community resilience against other pandemics in the future as water infrastructure investments increase due to COVID-19 pandemic.
Elianna Yankurije, 70, a resident of Bihari cell, Ruhuha sector in Bugesera district says that COVID-19 has left lasting lessons for citizens who used to take hand washing for granted because of lack of access to clean water.
For example Yankurije says the culture of hand washing existed before COVID-19 but because of making long distances to fetch water it was not that easy to be consistent.
“We used to wash hands but not every time. However, due to the pandemic we have seen water infrastructure brought close to the community and this has enabled us to prevent COVID-19 but also improve the hand washing culture,” Yankurije said.
Kamashana François, 68, also testifies to the culture while saying that the importance of hand washing was emphasized and understood better during the pandemic because of government efforts in educating citizens and access to clean water sources as part of the response plans.
“We never knew how to wash hands in the proper way but just drop water in the palms and think that it is done. Now we know that one needs to spend at least a minute washing hands,” Kamashana explained.
With access to clean water in most village communities in Bugesera, residents say that COVID-19 pandemic has left them with hygiene best practices which will enable them to prevent future pandemics.
However, citizens say that there is a need to increase water access to other communities and have door-to- door training of families and communities to have this practice embedded in the post pandemic Rwandan society.
The District Director of Health, Viateur Ndayisabye said that in the next one month they will work with community volunteers for demonstration to increase participation in hygiene and sanitation on individual and family or village basis.
On the issue of water access to all, Camille Karangwa, the Water Aid Rwanda Advocacy and Campaign Manager, said that with the growing culture of hand washing and hygiene in communities, the organization in partnership with the government will focus on mass education and increase access to clean water.
District Police and Army Commanders also used the campaign to encourage citizens to protect the environment as a means of ensuring food security but also fight crime through participation and information sharing.
The Mayor of Bugesera, Richard Mutabazi said that the community has done a good job in fighting the pandemic but the next move will rely on its resilience to end COVID-19 pandemic.
“We cannot have a community without crime yet it has no hygiene thus we need the physical hygiene on the body and in our communities and the surroundings” Mutabazi said.
Similar campaigns, led by local district leaders, were also launched in all seven districts of the province. The campaign is expected to be extended to other provinces soon.